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Pasadena Playhouse 2000 Season Off to Good Start
with
Joe DiPietro's The Kiss at City Hall

by Nick Anis

The Pasadena Playhouse (which seats 683 and has about 15,000 season subscribers) opened its 2000 season with the West Coast Premere of Joe DiPietro's contemporary romantic comedy, The Kiss at City Hall, brilliantly directed by Joel Bishoff.  Ticket sales were brisk for The Kiss at City Hall, which is the first of a six part series running this year.  The Kiss at City Hall ran from January 16 through February 20, 2000. 

We were fortunate to catch a 9:00 PM performance on Saturday February 19th. - just prior to the show's closing on the 20th.  The cast of 5 (Brian Cousins as Tony, Magda Harout as Mrs. Valentini, Paul Provenza as Dave, Robin Riker as Julie, and Sybyl Walker as Phoenix) were brilliant.  They were clearly accustomed to the set, script, and to each other.  One of the cast confided to me that "…there are lot of transitions in this show making it a bit challenging."  But clearly they were up to the task.

The story revolves around an historic photograph taken on April 1, 1950.  Robert Disneau's photo, "The Kiss at City Hall" was taken on a crowded Paris street capturing a young man and woman kissing passionately, oblivious to Parisian pedestrians passing by.

Was the kiss in the photo real or staged?  DiPietro examines the "truth" of modern romance by using comedy and exploring the delicate and complicated relationships between men and women.

Tony loves Julie, but he fears commitment because it may lead to a repeat of the failures of his past relationships.  Julie loves Dave and seeks commitment.  Their relationship comes to a crossroad when Julie is offered a big promotion on the other coast. 

The relationship of the other couple, Dave and Phoenix, is strained by an unplanned pregnancy and confused and shifting emotions.  First Phoenix loves Dave, but Dave is not sure he loves Phoenix; then Dave loves Phoenix, but Phoenix is not sure she loves Dave. 

As these two couples explore the question of love and the complexities of relationships, the audience gets to know them and (in spite of their inadequacies or transgressions) to like them and their Italian-immigrant maid.

Brian Cousins as "Tony" gives quite a performance with his soliloquy about the versatility of the f-word that rivals George Carlin's memorable diatribe "The seven words you can't say on television." Magda Harout as "Mrs. Valentini" gives a touching (and at times a mesmerizing) performance, at first with only her body language, because her character can't speak English.  Then with her lines as the audience hears the letter she wrote (that her daughter translated) read aloud in her voice with English narration.  Harout's performance is reminiscent of veteran character actor Kathleen Coleman (the maid in Ira Levine's Deathtrap).  Their comedic skills are about matched, but Harout actually bests Colman with greater stage presence and genuine warmth that brings tears and smiles to the audience.

Richard Hoover's sets and Karyl L. Newman's costumes were tailor-made for this storyline - their comfortable fit is more like what you might expect from a Broadway production rather than a regional theatre.  The cordless phone, telephone ringer, door buzzer, egg timer, and television brought to us by Francois Bergeron really make you feel as if you are inside Dave and Tony's apartment.  Dante Cardone's projections were imaginative and brilliant and were well coordinated with Neil Peter Jampolis' lighting.  Actually, KUDOS are well in order for ALL - writer, director, cast, and crew. 

Tony and Julie's pillow talk, which takes place in the bedroom in the second story loft, was done quite well.  The audience was taken a bit by surprise by a brief glimpse of Tony's derriere.  Tony is attractive and lean guy and unlike, Kevin Cosner he didn't need a bun double.  I would have preferred Julie be the one doing the brief PG-13 nude scene or at least joining Tony (smile).

It comes as no surprise that playwright Joe DiPietro also has two long-running off-Broadway hits playing:  The musical, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change  (currently in its fourth year) playing in New York and the comedy, Over the River and Through the Woods (now in its second year) playing at The Actor's Alley in Los Angeles.

The Pasadena Playhouse Winter/Spring 2000 season will continue the six part series with a new musical from the creator of Pump Boys and Dinettes, The People vs. Mona by Jim Wann, Ernest Chambers and Patricia Miller will run from March 3 through April 16, 2000 and open on Sunday, March 12.  Generally, there are eight shows week (Tuesday through Friday 8:00pm, Saturday, 5:00pm and 9:00pm, and Sunday, 2:00pm and 7:00pm), for six weeks, then a two-week break while preparing for the next show in the series.  There are no performances on Mondays and Thanksgiving Thursday.

Founded in 1917, and at its present location since 1925, the Pasadena Playhouse has produced hundreds of plays including 477 world premieres and all 37 of Shakespeare's plays.  What sets the Pasadena Playhouse apart from other regional theaters, such as the La Mirada Civic Center and the Muckenthaler, is all 683 seats in the theatre are basically good seats, and it the nearby proximity to Old Town Pasadena nearby with all its wonderful shops and palate pleasing restaurants.

The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101 near the Old Town district from points east of Pasadena take the 210 Freeway heading west and exit at Lake Avenue offramp.  Turn left and go four lights to Colorado Boulevard.  Turn right. Go three lights to El Molino Avenue and turn left. The theatre is 1/2 block down the street on the right. There is unrestricted parking nearby after 6:00pm or you can park in one of the pay lots for about $3. 

To order tickets for any performance in the series you can call Tele-Charge at 1-800-233-3123 or point your browser to www.telecharge.com, (there is an additional charge of $4.75 per ticket for this service).  During performance weeks, the box office is open Monday 10:00am to 6:00 pm, Tuesday through Friday 10:00am to 8:00pm, Saturday 10:00 am to 7:00pm, and closed on holidays.  On non-performance weeks the box office is open Monday through Sunday 10:00am to 6:00pm and closed on holidays.  Tickets range from $33.50 to $48.50, and special row seating tickets (last row of the orchestra and gallery) are available for $11.50 to $13.50.  For subscriptions to The Pasadena Playhouse, you can call Customer Services at 626-356-PLAY (10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday). Subscriptions range from $90.00 for three shows if you go to a preview performance, to $115 for three shows if you go to a weekend performance during the regular run.  Subscribers are offered free ticket exchange, free replacement of lost tickets and other special subscriber perks.  

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Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel and technology writer with over 24 books in print published by McGraw-Hill, Random House, Bantam, Ziff-Davis, Tab, and others. Nick's articles have appeared in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, West Coast Media, The Family Publications Group, The Weekly News, and Travel-Watch.  His beats include food, travel, snow and waters sports, entertainment, family recreation, consumer electronics, home improvement, and automotive.  He is responsible for the Restaurant Row Ethnic Dining Guide, co-published by the Long Beach Press Telegram.  Nick is an accomplished downhill skier, PADI certified SCUBA diver, and when he's not sitting on his butt goofing off, enjoys a variety of active recreation including tennis, riding motorcycles, ATVs, wave runners, snow machines, horses, skeet and trap shooting he's also taken a stab at riding camels, donkeys, elephants, ostriches, lamas, dolphins, Reindeer, bulls, mechanical bulls, and buffalo.  Nick is a member (A Secretary/Treasurer) of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), a member of the North American Snow Sports Journalist Association (NASJA), Computer Press Association, The Writer's Guild, and listed in Books in Print, Media Map, and Press Access.  You can reach Nick at Editor@Travel-Watch.com.

 

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